Bona fide tourist sites are a bit thin on the ground in Liberia. But one place that is very interesting to visit as a short day-trip from Monrovia is the Mount Coffee Hydroelectric Power Plant. I know it sounds like anything but a fun way to spend your Saturday, but trust me, it’s Ducor good.
Mount Coffee is located in Montserrado County on the Saint Paul River, about 20 miles outside of Monrovia in a place called White Plains. It was opened in 1966 and was operated by the Liberia Electricity Corporation as a hydropower dam generating electricity. It had a maximum generating capacity of 64 megawatts and supplied 35% of the country’s electricity. It also supplied drinking water to Monrovia through the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation.
Those were the good old days. During the first civil war in 1990, Charles Taylor’s rebel forces took control of the dam and shut off power and water to the capital. Over the years of conflict, the plant was further damaged, looted, and stripped of every single piece of valuable metal which was then sold for scrap and exported. Since then, the plant has never been operational.
There is a lot of talk about “rehabilitating” Mount Coffee. There wasn’t much structural damage, aside from a hit to one of the columns with a RPG. The shell of the facility is largely in place. That said, it will still cost several hundred million dollars to rebuild.
But Liberia needs it badly – there is no domestic electricity generation in Liberia today. All of Liberia’s “current” comes from generators, which are fuelled by expensive imported petrol. Even the power that is supplied by the Liberia Electricity Corporation to the capital’s limited electricity grid is produced by generators (albeit larger ones than the individual generators you see in many shops and restaurants).
This means that Liberia has one of the highest costs of electricity in the world – 54 cents per kilowatt hour. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, as a point of comparison, that is five times as much as in the US. That means businesses and landlords spend a huge amount of money on electricity, which is a real hamper on Liberia’s economic development.